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Commissioner Steve Novick

Official Website for Commissioner Steve Novick

Phone: 503-823-4682

fax: 503-823-4019

1221 SW 4th Ave. Suite 210, Portland, OR 97204

The hidden truths of Portland parking enforcement

By Rob Burchfield, City of Portland Transportation System Management Group Manager

It's one of the truths of modern life: No one likes to return to their parked vehicle and find a bright yellow envelope. Yet, all of us want to head to our favorite restaurant, movie or simply run an errand and find a parking space immediately available when we’re looking for one.

The goal of Portland’s parking program is just that – to make it feasible and even easy for people to find parking spaces in downtown and other high-demand areas of the city. This is more than a service of convenience, it’s vital for businesses, which need customers to be able to reach them. In fact, parking turnover is one of the key ingredients to any economically vital urban city.

But rules need enforcement. And parking officers are the ones who make sure that the rules stick. As with the NBA playoffs, your focus may be on the players and excitement of the game, but without the rules and refs the game would descend into chaos.

In enforcing Portland’s parking rules, our officers pride themselves on fairness, courtesy and accuracy. They also pride themselves on being ambassadors for the city, regularly giving residents and visitors tips about where to eat, what to see and of course giving directions. Yet as Oregonian columnist Joseph Rose showed in his story “Lake Oswego woman forced to pay phantom parking ticket,” on March 20, 2014, we are not flawless. In that incident, the driver mistakenly received two citations for the same violation: one was left on her car, another was mailed to her.

That was a glitch that we had never before encountered. When we learned of that incident, we investigated it the same day, confirmed the error and notified the court to void the duplicate ticket. We acknowledged our error, fixed the problem and apologized to our customer.

Our team also dug deeper. While we have never encountered this error before, we want to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. Our technical team is delving into our system and machines to try to pinpoint the source of this error and correct it. I also want to let Portlanders and visitors know that we have a system that has many safeguards to minimize errors and a court system that holds both drivers and us accountable.

Since 2003, parking officers have been writing citations electronically, a system that improves accuracy and completeness in many ways, including automatically inserting essential information, like date and time, and by transmitting citations directly to the court, eliminating errors that occur in manual data entry.

In 2008, we upgraded even further, adding photos to every citation to enhance accuracy. They also verify for the court that a license matches a vehicle, cutting down on an unfortunate practice that crops up occasionally – people placing their citation on another person’s vehicle. (Don’t try it; it doesn’t work).

Parking Enforcement has been in Portland since 1958 and we are proud of the work we do. We remain vigilant in monitoring our parking enforcement system and always welcome constructive feedback, as it helps us make Portland a great place to live. Please feel free to reach us at 503-823-5195 ext 3.